> Resources > Reviews | Readings

Applied Foresight and Futures Studies

Schwartz, Peter. The Art of the Long View: The Path to Strategic Insight for Yourself and Your Company. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

A good, brief work on the utility of scenario building in organizational planning, including some pointers on devising a scenario building process within your own organization. Very interesting examples: Schwartz was formerly in the long-range planning division of Shell Oil.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Chapter Eleven, "Shared Vision" is possibly the best statement yet written on the usefulness of vision for organizations; the rest of the book is equally good.

--- The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 1994.

Really excellent, dense sourcebook of references, facilitation techniques and activities, and examples for monitoring change, scenario building, visioning, team-building, and leadership.


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The following books represent a wider pool of reference works on adapting to change, team building, vision and leadership, and futures thinking/strategic planning in organizations. Where the annotation is scanty, you may assume I haven't finished reading the book myself (should have included a couple on time management, I guess...). Particularly noteworthy sections are highlighted in bold.

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. The Change Masters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

One of the first books investigating how highly adaptive organizations get that way.

Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge: How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991. 362 pp.

Note particularly Part Three, which includes chapters on envisioning the future, and enlisting others in building the vision.

Nanus, Bert. The Leader's Edge: The Seven Keys to Leadership in a Turbulent World. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989. 224 pp.

The codification and application of insights from his earlier work, Leaders; clear and straightforward in style, brief, it summarizes the need for future-oriented thinking and suggests seven "megaskills" for leadership; Chapter Five, "Futures-Creative Leadership," and Chapter Eight, "The Leader's Edge," are particularly helpful. The book's appendix offers a quick workshop technique for environmental scanning -- identifying emerging change issues critical to strategic planning -- that is quite useful.

--- Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. 244 pp.

An interesting and fairly quick read which basically summarizes the case studies gathered as part of a project on leadership; it is organized as an elucidation of four leadership strategies. See especially "Strategy I: Attention Through Vision."

Peters, Tom. Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. 708 pp.

See also Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr., In Search of Excellence; and Peters and Nancy Austin, A Passion for Excellence.

Overall, a fun read, because of his breezy writing style and the many interesting cases he cites; written as a "how-to" manual. In Chapter Five, "Learning to Love Change," he highlights the need for organizational flexibility, adaptiveness, and the critical role vision plays. (His newest book, another gem (albeit one sorely in need of a strict editorial hand), is Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1992.)

Waterman, Robert H., Jr. The Renewal Factor. New York: Bantam Books, 1987. Widely cited work pertinent to keeping up with and adapting to change in organizations.

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Creativity and Intelligence


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Systems Thinking


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Science and Speculative Fiction

Generally, an acquaintance with science fiction, either from movies, television, radio, books, or comics, enhances anybody's ability to think differently about the possible futures people face. Watch some Star Trek reruns, or the new Babylon-5. Check a few science fiction movies out of Blockbuster and consider what it would be like to be an ordinary person in the future that movie portrays -- or to be planning for your organization in the future that the movie portrays (e.g., Blade Runner, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Brazil, Back to the Future II, Fahrenheit 451, THX 1138, to name a few). Artists are sensitive to emerging social and technological issues, and portray the potential of change more vividly than social scientists. Speculative fiction offers a quick way to enhance your mental flexibility. For short forays into the future, the following authors and short story collections offer very different, and very memorable, quick reads.

Ballard, J.G. Vermilion Sands. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1988.

A reprint of a classic; Ballard had a unique insight into the possibilities that genetic engineering and biological innovations might support long before genetic engineering became jargon. Interesting characters moving through settings with a touch of the surreal. (This is a reprint; these stories are at least three decades old, but still very original.) Regrettably, Vermilion Sands is now out of print; you might instead try The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard.

Gibson, William. Burning Chrome. New York: Ace Books, 1987.

The stories that started cyberpunk as a science fiction genre; the stories that gave us the term, "cyberspace." Gibson's use of language is astonishing.

Varley, John. Blue Champagne. New York: Ace Books, 1987.

High technology and space colonies with in-depth treatment of interesting social issues. One of my all-time favorite authors, if only for the story, "Blue Champagne," which features a space station built primarily to house an immense zero-g swimming pool, a quadraplegic heroine, and the idea of marketing an absolutely genuine emotional media tape of falling in love.

Zelazny, Roger. The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories. London: Faber and Faber, 1973.

Classic stories of human life in space, written before he started making megabucks on his fantasy-oriented Amber series. Zelazny has a sure hand with characterizations and human relationships -- and a great sense of humor.

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